To: The General Practitioners Committee and the British Medical Association

NHS Healthcare: No charge at the point of use

01/06/14 - Well done all! the GPC rejected the motion for GP fees and it has not been carried over to the BMC ARM in June, you can see the full agenda here: http://bma.org.uk/working-for-change/arm-2014-info/agenda

NHS Healthcare: No charge at the point of use

Dear GPs, General Practitioners Committee and the British Medical Association:

At the Conference of Representatives of Local Medical Committees in York on May 22nd 2014, Wiltshire LMC will ask you to vote on the motion that claims ‘it is no longer viable for general practice to provide all patients with all NHS services free at the point of delivery’.

We, your patients, ask that you reject any motions to introduce appointment charges of £10, £25 or any other figure.

If this motion is upheld, the BMA will then vote on whether to make it policy or not at its Annual Representative Meeting in June. If that vote succeeds it may increase the rapid degeneration of the NHS, currently free at the point of use, built and paid for by the people for the people.

We understand that the NHS is currently being asset stripped and actively run down to serve political/business goals and we are concerned that any vote in favour of this will turn GPs into political scapegoats yet again.

Despite this pressure the service you provide is exemplary. By working together this political wilderness can be navigated and the updated oaths of Hipprocates to defend your patients’ access to healthcare independent of political pressures will be maintained.

Thank you,

The undersigned.

Why is this important?

On 22 May 2014 GP's are to vote on whether to introduce appointment charges (estimated £10 - £25 per visit). If this vote is passed it could mean the end of our NHS, free at the point of use.

The NHS is currently being dismantled under the guise of an ineffective system and more consumer choice.

Increased GP workload and patient demand driving this issue is largely as a result of government policy, hospital closures and privatisation. GP income has fallen by design and patient charges are not the answer.

"How many times are we going to fall into the traps set by our political masters?" asks Gurdave Gill, GP Partner writing on the Pulse Today website. "Patient charges are NOT the answer. User charges deter the sick and poor as much as the 'worried well'. Expensive and bureaucratic to collect, evidence shows patients delay seeking medical advice when user charges are introduced. Delay in diagnosis can cause significant harm. If we know this to be fact, to introduce charges appears to suggest that our incomes are more important than any potential harm to the patients. Is this ethical?

"The current crisis in Primary care has been manufactured to create a pressure from GPs for charges. [...] We should be demanding increased resources from Government and not our patients. The NHS returned £5bn underspend to the treasury in the last 3 years. The cost of the purchaser-provider split exceeds £10bn pa yet delivers absolutely no patient gain at roughly the entire cost of primary care! {...] We need to identify the correct target and demand our representative bodies are more effective rather than the incompetence/collusion with Government we have seen in recent past.
The minority of pro-privatisation GPs leading the call for charges need to be recognised for what they are. We must not be persuaded by the 'greedy and dims' amongst us.”

And how about that consumer choice? Right now we have the best of both, individual private healthcare and tax-payer funded. Both are a form of 'paid for' healthcare, one is paid for by the individual, the other paid for and negotiated collectively. If the asset strip continues we will only have the most expensive poorly-negotiated option open to any of us. That is no choice at all.

UPDATE
The BMA's current position on this motion as outlined to one of our members, obviously, it would be naive to rest on these laurels:

"The BMA's current position is not in favour of charging patients for GP appointments. Introducing charging would undermine the basis of the NHS; that healthcare is free at the point of use, and patients receive care based on their clinical need. A fee charging system could require an expensive bureaucracy to collect money from patients. It is also possible that the charges may deter vulnerable patients from seeing their GP which could lead to delays in treatment.
However, there will be a motion debated at the Local Medical Committee (LMC) conference in York later this month. If the motion is carried, this does not mean it will become BMA policy. BMA Policy is decided at our Annual Representative Meeting (ARM) in July [ed- It's actually Sunday 22 - Thursday 26 June 2014] and motions are proposed by individual branch of practice conferences (e.g. GPs, consultants, junior doctors etc) and submitted for debate by geographical divisions. It would require further consideration by the BMA's leadership and the BMA's Annual Representative Meeting in July.
It is understandable that GPs are looking at raising these kind of ideas, given the enormous pressure on GP services. Many GP practices are struggling from a combination of rising patient demand and falling funding that ministers have failed to recognise. However, the BMA feels that we don't need a complicated and unfair charging system to be introduced for GP appointments. We need the government to provide the resources to enable GPs to deliver the care that their patients need.
I hope this is helpful and that it clarifies the BMA position for you."

Links:
Facebook page that inspired this petition: https://www.facebook.com/healthcharge
Pulse Today - GP leaders to vote on whether to support patient charges for appointments: http://bit.ly/1lrI1gg
LMC Conference - Full Agenda: http://bit.ly/fullagenda
BMC/GPC: http://bit.ly/bmcandgpc
BMC Annual Meeting: http://bma.org.uk/working-for-change/arm-2014-info
Wessex LMC: http://bit.ly/aboutWessex

How it will be delivered

To the representatives of the LMC conference on May 22nd via email.
If the motion is carried then the campaign will aim for maximum impact and increase in size, scope and publicity for the policy meeting in July.

Image courtesy of Tom & Katrien under Creative Commons License 2.0:
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode


Reasons for signing

  • also dental & optical needs (& social care)!
  • Why am I paying my taxes then?
  • I believe in the NHS and this is not what it stands for

Updates

2015-07-26 14:54:18 +0100
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Petition is successful with 2,931 signatures

2014-06-02 11:41:36 +0100
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Petition is successful with 2,900 signatures

2014-05-15 10:03:45 +0100

1,000 signatures reached

2014-05-13 23:03:57 +0100

500 signatures reached

2014-05-13 13:32:31 +0100

100 signatures reached

2014-05-13 13:06:30 +0100

50 signatures reached

2014-05-13 12:54:36 +0100

25 signatures reached

2014-05-13 12:41:28 +0100

10 signatures reached